Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts celebrates 10-year anniversary with unique exhibition

Exhibit features artwork from rural South Africa

MELBOURNE, Fla. – Located inside Florida Institute of Technology is the only textile center in the southeast.

The Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts is currently showcasing a unique exhibit to celebrate it’s 10-year anniversary, .

Titled “Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence,” the exhibit is a display of colorful glass beads stitched onto canvas.

Its artwork showcases how African women are using their heritage and is a skill passed on from mother to daughter to help sustain their families.

“These women have really retold and re-framed how they see not only themselves and their worth, but also what they feel they mean to their culture and their society as a whole,” said Kiedra Daniels Navaroli, assistant director and curator for Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts.

The exhibition also gives a sense of some of the struggles African women have faced.

“A lot of these women, their personal stories, a lot of them were denied access to a formal education because they were women,” Daniels Navaroli said. “So a lot of them used what they know to create a livelihood for themselves.”


The exhibition features artwork from five South African artists who are part of the Ubuhle arts organization, an organization established in 1999 by two local women, Bev Gibson and Ntombeli “Induna” Ntobelain, in Durban in the KwaZuln-Nata province.

“It’s a new art form created by South African artists who are using their heritage and the skill that they’ve learned,” said Carla Funk, executive director and chief curator of university museums for Florida Tech. “It encompasses so many of the things that we’ve been doing through our past exhibitions and highlighting beautiful art form, in this case the Ndwango-a beaded cloth.”

Despite the struggles African women have endured, these artists are letting the world know they aren't defined by those bad experiences.

“When it comes to their personal trauma, these are all aspects of their story but it’s not their narrative,” Daniels Navaroli said. “The fact that despite everything, these women are really focused on raising the level of their skill so they’re not just seen as rural uneducated women but as women who are utilizing this skill set to be, you know, smart, savvy, innovative.”

Among the collection is the African Crucifixion, a large piece made up of several panels. The creation dives into their country's hardships.

“It was the first collaborative piece done by these artists. Traditionally, they all worked on separate panels. Each artist is responsible for one panel,” Daniels Navaroli said. “Ultimately, the women saw this as a metaphor for South Africa, sort of an allegory of South Africans history.”

The piece, which took about a year to complete, starts on the left side with the tree of defeat.

Daniel Navaroli said bulls are really important to this community because they represent the women and cattle represent the important livelihood for rural South Africa.


The intricate artwork stands out with its colorful beads and because it’s helping connect people to other cultures.

“It’s about education. It’s about empowerment, showing where they’ve come, it’s ultimately, as a lot of our volunteers and visitors have remarked, an exhibition about hope,” Daniels Navaroli said.

The “Ubuhle Women: Beadwork and the Art of Independence” exhibit will be on exhibit through April 25.

The Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary with a fundraiser on March 21 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For pricing and to register for the event, click here.

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